It is the meticulous attention to detail in the direction (Bryony J. Thompson) that makes the Rosemary Branch Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre so special. Each moment is carefully crafted, and it is clear that thought has been put into every gesture, movement, line, pathway and interaction.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a classic piece of literature that is greatly loved by many. It tells the story of a young orphan named Jane who lives at Gateshead with her cruel Aunt Mrs Reed. The Reed family show Jane no kindness and she is greatly unhappy. She is sent to study at the Lowood School and stays there for six years, teaching there afterwards for a further two years. She places an advertisement in the local newspaper to be a governess, and is then contacted by Mrs Fairfax to come and live at Thornfield to govern a ten-year-old girl. Jane falls in love with the owner of Thornfield, Mr Rochester, but on her wedding day learns of secrets that she may be unable to forgive.
There is always a worry with a piece such as Jane Eyre that not as many young theatregoers will attend, but I feel this production would be a perfect introduction to this type of literature and theatre if someone is not already familiar with it. When the show began, I was concerned that the speed at which it progresses would make it inaccessible for those who are not well-acquainted with the text already, but this is far from the case; I believe anyone would greatly enjoy this show (and most likely fall in love with the story) whether they knew it previously or not. The warm and inviting atmosphere in the Rosemary Branch Theatre feels very celebratory as the show celebrates the two hundredth birthday of Charlotte Brontë.
The performance space is bare with just six wooden chairs used for set and the actors wear cream period clothing throughout. This perfectly complements the piece and I did not once feel it needed anything else. Its simplicity is counteracted by the intricate and complex detail of the words and movements. All actors remain on stage for the entire piece, which allows for great smoothness of transitions; it is clear the cast are well rehearsed and are very comfortable with both the text and each other. All six actors – Alice Coles, Jack Collard, Madeline Gould, Alice Osmanski, Ben Warwick and Emilia Williams – are extremely versatile as they switch frequently between different roles. The speed of dialogue and plot progression means there is barely a moment to even catch a breath, but this captivates the audience members.
The well-loved line, “Reader, I married him”, is delivered with such delight it moved me to tears and the feeling of joy from the audience on leaving the theatre is palpable.
A wonderful adaptation.
Jane Eyre is playing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre Theatre until 14 February. For more information and tickets, see the Rosemary Branch Theatre. Photo by Bill Knight.